Wine Day: 6 Whites, 5 Reds and 8000 Years of Human History – Day 39

TODAY’S TIDBITS

  • When uncorking the bottle, always try to face the label to the guest for the whole process.
  • Salt, acid, fat, and protein in food all lower the acidic and tannin taste of wine. Sweetness increases the tannin taste as does spicy food, which also increases the alcohol taste.
  • Olive oil also contains tannins – so if you whip your olive oil too much it starts to taste bitter because you are exposing its tannins.
  • New World wines are generally higher in alcohol, lower in acidity, bolder in flavor and oak, than their Old World comparables.

Today was all about wine. Chef Scott introduced us to the basics of wine making, the basics of taste and wine tasting, cooking with wine, how wines and foods interact, and then tasting a variety of whites and reds. The big aha moment for me was the interaction between foods and wines.

Dalal capturing an essence
Dalal capturing an essence
Erik delivering the goods
Erik delivering the goods

I had given some but not a lot of credence to ‘wine pairings’, and really never realized how dramatically food can change the taste of wine. Old Word (European) winemakers are very much concerned with how their wines taste when combined with food, while New World winemakers are more concerned about how wine tastes by itself. As an example, we tasted an ‘acidy’ French Sauvignon Blanc then Chef Scott had us put a bit of butter, salt and lemon on a spoon, gulp it (it tasted amazing btw), and then taste the wine again. A totally different and much better taste. The lemon-butter-salt had cancelled all the harsher flavors and left a really great tasting wine. The reverse happens as well – for instance a sweet dessert wine will cancel the sweetness of a dessert and let the other dessert flavors seem much stronger. Flavors don’t enhance they cancel themselves. Perhaps as a rough general rule – if you’re picking up a bottle of wine just to drink, pick up a new world wine, if it’s to go with food then pick up a European. Of all the wine we tasted, the Australian Shiraz was my favorite – probably because I only really started to taste wine while living there, and wine is…after all….an acquired taste. Yes Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape – originally called Syrah from France, but now grown all over the world under both the Syrah and Shiraz name. It’s also a grape that can survive harsher environments so it replanted well. There were what was called THE BIG 6 grapes (Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon), but it’s now called THE BIG 6 + 1 – the new one being Syrah, which now outsells several of the big 6.

The spoon of butter, salt and lemon, which tastes AMAZING even on its own
The spoon of butter, salt and lemon, which tastes AMAZING even on its own
Chef Scott shows us how to properly open a bottle of wine
Chef Scott shows us how to properly open a bottle of wine

We learnt lots of little tidbits, which I know most wine aficionados already know, but are always interesting to repeat. The ‘red’ in red wine comes from the skin of the grape, so if you take the skin off, you can make white wine (and Champagne) from red grapes – Champagne is 20% Pinot Noir. Don’t smell the cork, the reason the cork is presented is so that you can confirm the authenticity of winery as written on the cork and that the bottle hasn’t been opened – you see, you can’t replace the cork the same way once the bottle has been opened. Dom Perignon was a monk who was instrumental in helping invent Champagne. Two things happened when Nicole Clicquot’s husband died – she inherited a champagne business and she became a ‘veuve’ (French for ‘widower’). Nicole invented several processes which improved her champagne, hence the famous Champagne: Veuve Clicquot.

Chef Scott also amazingly summarized the role of wine in 8000 years of human history in about 15 minutes. I wish I could do as good a job summarizing all we learnt about wine into a quick blog post, but unfortunately, with wine…unfortunately….you really have to taste it.

Tomorrow we have our written exam and our practical exam (creme anglaise, pipeing, quartering a chicken and filleting a flounder)…. so enough about wine, off to study….well, ok, one more glass!

PS: If you’re ever in an Italian restaurant, and your considering….[sung]: A bottle of white, a bottle of red, perhaps a bottle of rosé instead….. Chef S recommends Arnot-Roberts rosé at $25.

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